AUTHOR'S NOTE:Welcome to Pokemon: The Change, a project I've taken on inspired by and originating from a role-play I'm taking part in on RPA. For those who don't know, my project shares the same name as the original RP which is located on RPA [role-play adventures; a completely different website], just in case you're interested in reading the original, raw work. In the future, I'll try to make my Author's Notes short and snappy, or at least a bit entertaining, but I have to get a few things out of the way first, so please bare with me this time...

What I've done here is I've taken the original RP from RPA and pretty much just copied and pasted everything into documents on my computer, then edited and revised the living crap out of them. I broke everything up into parts so that (A) it would be easier to edit/revise the otherwise oddly formatted story, and (B) so that the story would make sense to the reader and not jump all over the place, as in the case of the original RP. This is a long, tedious process that requires a lot of attention and thought, but more than that it takes care and caution seeing as I am fiddling with not only my written work, but a large amount of other peoples' work as well. Since I've mentioned it already I want to make it extra clear: I am not the only writer in this project. The only credit I am taking is for my own work, which is doing what I just said, as well writing the parts for my own characters. While I do contribute to this story and it's outcome, the credit for about 85% of this project go to somewhere just under 20 other people. To give credit where credit is due, at the end of every part of the story is a small credits section that states who wrote this part or controlled that character. Please refer to it before giving me grief on the matter; thank you.

If you are a member of RPA who has contributed to this project and have any questions, comments, or concerns related to this story and/or your part in it, see the note just above the Credits section at the bottom before making any contact with myself and/or the staff of either FanFiction or RPA. Thank you.

Before I wrap this up and get to the damn story already, I have one last thing that I feel is important to mention: The original RP is still an ongoing work-in-progress, so as a result this project is too. What I'm getting at here is please don't complain to me about the time it takes to get things done. This project is just something I've taken on for the fun of it, as well as to build my skills as an editor; not to mention the RP is written by that large group of people I keep mentioning, who all take part in the RP as a hobby and aren't writing for your satisfaction but for their own. More importantly, don't give them grief over it either. If anyone [myself included] indirectly and/or directly involved in this project and/or the original RP receives any form of harassment, this project is at risk for deletion as a result.

Thank you kindly for not skipping and being aware of all this; I hope you enjoy the story!


The world of Pokémon has long been known as a a world of peace. While an occasional threat might arise, there has yet to be anything that the world can't overcome.

This time, the world may not be up to the challenge.

Twelve years ago, a light came from the direction of Mount Silver, the mountain that separates the Kanto and Johto regions. The light eventually engulfed the entire world, blinding human and Pokémon alike, and then it vanished as suddenly as it appeared.

And the world had changed.

The entire world had suddenly transformed into a giant wasteland. The lakes and oceans were polluted, and it became impossible for water Pokémon to live in their natural habitats. Grass Pokémon slowly began to grow sick. Other Pokémon began to grow feral, making travel between towns extremely dangerous.

Despite this, people tried to rebuild, just as they always did after a disaster. This time, however, would be different. Eventually, people with much more malicious intentions started surfacing with the belief that the world would remain as it was, never to return to its former peaceful state. Violence of all sorts like robberies, murder, and gang activity took a sharp increase. Now, people not only had to fear the wild Pokémon, who occasionally attacked towns themselves in large groups, they also had to fear their own kind. The people had believed that the Pokémon League would come forward and protect them, but this was an illusion, too. The Gyms had suddenly been deserted not long after what would come to be known as the Change, the whereabouts of the Gym Leaders and their followers unknown. It was clear that the League was still active - Pokémon Centers and the storage system were still very much in effect. That was the only other sign of their existence. The Gyms themselves either became gang hangouts or shelters...and people began to lose hope.

Even Pokémon Trainers were now few in number. Most Trainers had either been killed not long after the Change, or had retired in order to better support their families, or simply for their own safety. There are some courageous - or, as some might call them, foolish - Trainers who brave the wastes, hired as mercenaries to protect others on their way to other towns or other such odd jobs, since the League was all but gone. However, there are Trainers who maintain a purpose - they seek answers. Why did the Change happen? What brought it about? Perhaps, if they find the answers, they can return the world to the way it was before...


Route 22

A lone Houndoom silently crept along Route 22, keeping his senses aware of all around him. It was necessary if one wished to survive in this wasteland to always stay on guard. If you didn't pay close enough attention to your surroundings, you could miss your chance to obtain food...or you may become food yourself.

However, the Houndoom was lucky this day. He picked up two scents in the air- one human, and one...he couldn't be sure. He knew that the smell was a familiar one, yet the Houndoom could not place it. But there would be time to figure it out later; the dog Pokémon dropped and pressed himself to the ground in an attempt to make himself as invisible as possible. The wasteland didn't offer much cover, but a skilled hunter didn't need it.

The Houndoom kept his red, feral eyes trained on the direction the scent came from, and sure enough, a human eventually appeared on the horizon. Following the human was a dinosaur-like creature with a flower around its neck - a type of Pokémon rarely seen nowadays. The Houndoom's eyes narrowed. He guessed that at one point the Pokémon would have proven to be a difficult challenge, but not now that the environment would surely have weakened it. The human too appeared to be weak and frail; no challenge at all.

What could have easily passed as a grin grew across the Houndoom's face as the two crept closer. A fierce, low growl crept up from within his chest, for he was beginning to lose patience with his prey. It didn't help when the two suddenly stopped for what appeared to be no reason. Foam had begun to build around the hellhound's mouth, his irises growing a dark red and his pupils slowly expanding. There would be no more waiting - Houndoom was hungry now.

Without a second thought, he flung himself towards his prey.

The Houndoom released a piercing howl into the empty night air, foam being flung off from his face as he ran and despite his war cry his prey was unaware of his approach, it seemed.

As he pressed on, the Houndoom felt several sharp objects that appeared to be leaves began to cut away at his body, but no matter - Houndoom was upon them, and his prey would soon be at his mercy. It would be best to take out the Pokémon first, as it seemed to be the one attacking and certainly posed the biggest threat. With another howl, the Houndoom leaped into the air, ready to begin tearing into his opponent's fle-

BANG. The Houndoom felt something slam into his body. The powerful force sent the Houndoom back to the ground, but this was merely an inconvenience. The Houndoom attempted to rise again in order to continue his attack, but stopped when he felt a cold sensation in his chest. Suddenly growing light-headed, the Houndoom slowly craned his head back to look at the area where he had taken the blow and now felt this strange sensation of slipping away. As his vision began to grow blurry, Houndoom noticed the small silver glint in his chest, blood surrounding it. The Houndoom sniffed the air briefly and knew immediately that this wasn't his prey's blood- it was his own.

And with that realization, the Houndoom lowered his head and died.

It had ended so quickly. Haru and Meganium had been careless- they hadn't been paying any attention to their surroundings. Had it not been stopped, the feral Houndoom would have killed them both, or at the very least, injured Meganium.

Thankfully, that hadn't happened.

"What in the flying hell are you doing, wandering around like that without a weapon?" asked a tall, bearded man who now held a smoking shotgun, "You have some kind of death wish, boy?"

Haru had to think before answering. Given all that had happened, maybe he did deserve death. But if he did, there would be no way for him to make up for what he had done.

"Bah, whatever," growled the man, "but look, it's dangerous in these parts, especially at night. I'll take you to Viridian City for free if you'd like - only this once. If I didn't at least offer, I wouldn't be able to sleep."

Haru stayed silent for another moment before answering with an affirmative nod.

"We'd like that very much, sir-"

"WOAH, no, not sir. Doug. The name's Doug. Sir doesn't sit well with me, and neither does Mister. Long as you don't call me either of those, we're in business." the man said, then he frowned as his gaze turned to Meganium. "Also, boy, don't you have any other Pokémon aside from that Meganium? You know Grass types don't do well out here."

"No, I don't," Haru said with a shake of his head, "I don't feel like I need any other Pokémon."

Doug shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "Whatever, kid. We'd better get moving before more of those things show up," he said, pointing at the dead Houndoom with his gun. Haru nodded in response, and the group began to head towards Viridian City. As they went, Haru glanced back at the fallen Pokémon.

"I'm sorry," he said before turning away. Meganium gave his friend a sad glance before taking the rear of the group.


PART ONE - Viridian
{Chris, Mina, Alex, and Haru}

Mina had been in Viridian City for three nights now, and it would have been four if she hadn't gone to check out Pallet Town the day before. Pokémon from Victory Road were finding their way down to Viridian recently, so it was the least she could do to try to stop as many as she could - Pallet Town was in considerably less danger.

Her routine had been the same as it always was when she was on a job: first, she would ask Espeon to use his psychic powers to give a general "reading" of the day. Within a given margin of error, his predictions were usually solid, so Mina relied on them to prepare herself. Considering how many variables there were, it was difficult to predict exact occurrences, but he could predict general trends. More specifically, he could predict how violent the day ahead would be on a scale of: "Nah, it's chill" to "Try not to soil yourself." In the recent past, the trend had been quite stable with a moderate level of danger and violence involved. Thus the trend for today had been, unsurprisingly, moderate.

After this, Mina would eat whatever the townspeople had to offer her, and take a ride on Charizard to perform surveillance of the surrounding area from the sky. If she (or Charizard) could spot any trouble, they would warn the townspeople and prepare the defenses. If not, then she would go back anyway and try to make herself useful. She would do these surveillance checks every few hours or so. Other than alerting the town, her general plan in cases of actual danger, which there had been plenty of in the last few days, was that she station herself - more specifically, her Pokémon - on the front lines, where they could absorb the brunt of the offense. Thankfully, attacks typically consisted of single Pokémon instead of hordes, which made everything easier to handle. Today, the only dangerous Pokémon to approach had been a pair of scrawny Mightyenas, which had been taken care of easily enough.

Mina was currently on her fifth patrol of the day, flying above the wastes on her Charizard's back. This was her favorite part of her job; there was a sense of freedom which was incomparable.

She surveyed the landscape, looking for anything moving or approaching Viridian. Everything seemed clear, until she noticed some figures coming in from the west.

"Char, do you see that?" Her Pokémon grunted in confirmation. Mina continued, "Can you see what they are?" The Charizard growled lightly, signifying that she didn't think they were hostile. They flew a bit closer and noticed that it was people who were approaching, not hostile Pokémon. As curious as that was, it was unlikely to be a great threat, so Mina let Charizard know that they should head back to the City, as nothing dangerous was apparently heading their way at present. As they landed, some of the kids gathered around to take yet another look at Charizard. Sure, seeing a domesticated Pokémon was somewhat rare nowadays, and Charizard didn't seem to mind, but the attention made Mina uncomfortable, so she tried her best to ignore them. Instead, she walked over to the Pokémon Center and slumped back against the wall, with Charizard lying down beside her. There was nothing that needed her immediate attention, so she figured she could relax.

A drop of blood slowly made its way down Alexander's cheek, the liquid trail obscured by the dirt and grime that it had to climb over as it fell, the earth so thick on him that it clung to the hunter like a second skin. Still, Alexander was used to it, both the blood and the dirt; it was only part of the trade, after all. You couldn't really expect to go out into the wild these days for any length of time and not come out with at least a few scratches at the very least, and Alex had been out there for FAR longer than a few measly days.

A customer had asked for a dozen Noctowl pelts. For what reason Alex had not asked. All that he knew was that the amount offered to him for this bounty was more than enough to keep his ammo pouch stuffed with every type of round he could need for a good many months. All the ammo in the world, however, didn't make hunting those damned owls any easier. They were near impossible to spot in the daylight, hiding themselves within withered trees or amongst cliff faces, and at night they were nearly ghosts, striking from above without so much as a whisper of sound. The only real way to hunt them reliably was to sit in the treetops and watch a Caterpie, hoping that the stupid little insect managed to get itself eaten. Needless to say, sitting and watching a Caterpie was hardly an exciting way to spend a night, especially when you needed to worry about being put on the menu yourself.

It had taken just over two weeks, but eventually the hunt had drawn to a close, Alex heaving a large and noticeably bloody rucksack out of the woods, never wanting to eat Noctowl again in his life. All that was left now was to turn his skins in and collect his reward. Then he could take a shower, get himself cleaned up and get ready to head out again, ready to spend time in the wild NOT watching asinine little bugs squirm around all night.

His buyer was located at a small clothing and house wares store near the Centre of town, a decent enough place to get something that you needed, with a slightly deluded owner that continually pumped out rather…unique clothing designs, despite the complete impracticality of such things. Despite himself, however, Alexander couldn't help but admit that if his kills wound up being turned into a Noctowl cloak he would probably wind up being sorely tempted to buy it for the warmth and visual appeal alone. He'd have to check and see what was done with them the next time he was in town…

So wrapped up in his thoughts of what exactly would be done with the owls, Alex didn't even notice the reactions of the rest of the townsfolk as he walked, not that he really cared, regardless. He'd seen it all before, the wide berth that they gave him, either due to his appearance or his parcel, the nervous looks that inevitably went to the large knife on his hip or the rifle slung over his shoulder. Even the "domesticated" Pokémon were generally either wary or openly hostile towards him, with most hissing or growling at him as he moved by, made uncomfortable from the scent of old blood that emanated from his clothing. He had tried to get rid of that, of course; it wasn't good to have a smell that could be tracked or noticed by whatever he was stalking, but it had turned out to be far more trouble than it was worth, seemingly nearly buried into his very skin for how fast his new clothes acquired it.

With a tired shove, Alex made his way into the clothing store, dropping the package onto the counter with a sigh of relief. For birds, Noctowl were HEAVY! Yet another reason to hate the bloody things… He didn't bother to speak to the owner of the establishment. They had worked together before, and she knew all too well that he would have nothing to say, good or bad, about the task that she had sent him on. So, she simply handed over a small bag, its size comfortable in Alex's hand as he gave it a small bounce. He wasn't really sure why, but it was a ritual that he always did upon receiving payment… Perhaps it was a callback to the old movies that he had seen on the TV growing up? In any case, the currency of the land was in bills, making the weight of the gesture sadly insubstantial. Turning and moving towards the door, Alexander uttered the only words that he would say that day to the shopkeeper. "You know how to contact me if you need something else."

It was a good feeling to be done with this particular job, and the only two things that occupied his mind upon leaving were, firstly, a nice hot shower and, secondly, what exactly he felt like going after next. Hunting when he was flush with cash was always more fun, as he could go after game that he wanted to track down, favoring the rare beasts that hid within the forests and caves of the land. He had spotted a shiny Ponyta on this most recent trip, and the possibility of bringing it back was a tempting one indeed… Probably would fetch a decent price as well. Maybe this was one that he should bring back alive? People seemed to have a love for the discolored version of animals that bordered on the fetishistic, and the horse was certainly small enough to fall prey to tranquilizers.

Unfortunately, Alex's train of thought was rudely interrupted by the sudden appearance of an obstacle in his path, a rather large Charizard blocking off most of the roadway in front of him. It was hardly the first time that he had seen the animal, its patrols above him having been a common sight for his time in Viridian City, but he still held an innate distrust for the massive dragon, not wanting to get within striking distance. Still… It was right outside of the inn, and that was really where he wanted to go right now. With a long suffering sigh, he settled himself against the wall of the Pokémon Centre, a few metres away from a black-haired woman that looked about the same age as he was. He didn't bother to introduce himself, instead staring blankly at the wall in front of him, silently hoping that the Charizard would move soon.

Chris paced back and forth at the edge of Pallet Town. He looked back at it, remembering what it used to be with a foggy memory. Perhaps it never was as amazing as he thought, but he did remember legendary trainers of the past were born there, and he took a moment to reflect on how they were no longer around and how he was.

"Well, Romanov! Are you ready to head back to Viridian? There seems to be no work left here anyway," he called at his Tyranitar who was looking glumly at the Horizon towards where Cinnabar once stood proud in the ocean.

Tyranitar merely looked at him and gave him a nod, then started to walk down Route 1, leaving Chris to catch up with him. Their time together brought them close, but even now there were some uncertainties between them. Chris always had the fear that his best friend would one day attack him, and Romanov had the fear that Chris would become insane and try to kill him. But for the most part they trusted each other, and they loved each other like family.

As they made their way to Viridian City they started to hear movement in the area, and suddenly three large Fearow burst into the sky, and attacked the duo of unfortunate travelers. Chris acted fast and retrieved his pistol, shooting one of the closest of the beasts, but only clipping its wing. It tumbled to the ground, but quickly rose and started to glow with strange light.

Romanov hurriedly took down the biggest and slowest of the group with a powerful stone edge technique, hitting it swiftly over the head and cracking its weak skull open like an egg, then started towards the unharmed Fearow, roaring with a ferocity that was only seen in wild beasts. Meanwhile Chris noticed the clipped Fearow's plot and started towards the beast, drawing his sword and lunging at it, but just as he struck the bird its stored energy was released, knocking Chris high into the air, and his sword into the distance.

He landed about 5 feet away from the bird, injured from the shock-wave of the energy, and the Fearow drew close, proud of its victory. Just as it readied the final attack it was struck by Romanov's sharp claws, nearly ripping off its entire head. Blood splashed into the air for a few moments before the bird ceased to bleed.

Chris pulled himself together and rose up to meet the eyes of his friend, and after a few moments of silence Chris hugged Tyranitar gratefully. "I'm getting a little careless..." was all he could say before trailing off to silence. After a few moments of standing there quietly, Chris released his hug and retrieved his blade, sheathed it, and continued to walk towards Viridian. When they got to the small town they walked towards the town Pokémon Centre, and collapsed against the wall, letting out a tired sigh. He didn't break anything in that fight, but he was in a lot of pain. Romanov sat next to him and gave him a caring nudge, showing that he was concerned.

The smell of blood drew the two Houndoom closer to the road. They slowly stalked closer towards the smell, eyes focused dead ahead. The lead Houndoom's head suddenly snapped up, her body remaining still. She then continued to move closer to the smell, but with more speed and purpose in her movements. Eventually she reached her goal: a dead Houndoom laid on the edge of the road. The Houndoom sniffed the fallen form, sorrow in her eyes. She nudged the fallen Pokémon several times, a vain attempt at reviving her fallen mate.

The female Houndoom slowly raised her head into the air, rage growing in her eyes. Surely her mate's killer was still nearby. She would find the killer and make them pay dearly for what they had done.

The Houndoom released a loud, piercing howl into the air, an eerie sound that would send any smaller Pokémon running, and would cause any smart human who wasn't too close to go the other way. Slowly but surely, one, two, three, four… the number kept rising until a total of ten Houndoom stood by the edge of the road, awaiting their new pack leader's command. The Alpha female sniffed the dead Houndoom once more. She smelled faint traces of human and some sort of grass Pokémon on her mate, but she couldn't be sure - a strong smell of gunpowder had nearly eliminated any other scent. The female raised her head into the air once more, and found what she was looking for: two similar scents were nearby, or at least traceable. With a bark, she took off running further down the road in the direction of the scent, the rest of the pack following her.

A Tyranitar. And a Charizard. Oh dear. Both of these were beasts that Alex typically wanted to be seeing from a few hundred meters and a few dozen rounds away, at the very least. Being sandwiched between both of them in a narrow street was something that every fiber of his being rebelled against, especially with exactly how often that damned Charizard was glaring at him…

As Alex's comfort faded at the large Poké-Preseneces, Mina's reverie was long since interrupted by the distinct scent of unwashed human. Charizard had perked up as Mina did and stared straight at the men who had just slumped down near them. Unusual; she didn't typically care.

Mina glanced over subtly, noticing Alex's general appearance, his lack of Pokéballs, and his rifle, and concluded that he must be a hunter of some kind. Before the Change, this would have been nearly unthinkable, but now there were a foolhardy few who decided to make that their way of life. She had met a few on her travels, but most of them had at least one Pokémon with them... This guy didn't seem to have any. She had to admit, she was intrigued. Besides, this guy seemed well seasoned. He had to be, else he would have died by now. She didn't bother introducing herself though, for he didn't really seem like the social type.

It was then that she took notice to the other guy that sat down near her as well… with a full-fledged Tyranitar. Mina was suitably impressed. Having a Tyranitar after the Change was no small feat, not to mention she had yet to evolve her own Pupitar, and she considered herself a relatively good trainer. She had once been attacked by a Tyranitar out near Mt. Silver, and it had been a really close call for her team, so she was, simply through instinct, slightly concerned. She just hoped its trainer could keep it under control.

Charizard was apparently unconcerned with the huge rock-type Pokémon, still focused on the hunter. In any case, the wall of the Pokémon Center had apparently become the 'it-place' to hang out right now, which disconcerted Mina. She preferred being alone - or rather, alone when it came to people. And Charizard was acting weird, which made her feel even less at ease.

Alex was just beginning to contemplate the most subtle way of climbing over one of the buildings to get out from between the two dragons without actually needing to pass either of them by when, thankfully, the smaller of the pair, seemingly controlled by the woman that he had been sitting next to in silence, prepared to return her pet.

She reached down to her belt and pulled up Charizard's Pokéball. "Alright girl, you should get some rest for now. We have some time before the next patrol, so best be prepared for when that comes around." Charizard stared at Mina, apparently disagreeing. Mina raised her eyebrow and tapped the Pokéball with the index finger of her free hand. Charizard grunted, and was grudgingly withdrawn.

With that, Mina stood, and realized that her Pokémon had apparently been in the way of... well... everything. Whoops. She looked over at the smelly man, who had probably been trying to get somewhere, and opened her mouth to say something, stopping short as she noticed something wrong…

There was a bit of an awkward silence as Mina pondered their disheveled appearances. Why were they covered in blood? Neither of them seemed to be bleeding, so it was likely they got involved in a relatively violent fight with some Pokémon before arriving at the City. Being able to keep their own against those sorts of threats, and having a Tyranitar, allowed her to classify them as good fighters - probably mercenaries. Good to know she wasn't the only one here, in case any fights broke out. Satisfied with this conclusion, she finally apologized, "Sorry about that. I didn't realize she was taking up so much room." She flashed Alex a wide smile, as charming as she could muster. Then, in the hope that she wasn't appearing rude, she turned her smile politely towards Chris, and his Tyranitar too.

Trying to keep the relief off of his face, Alex took that as his own cue to rise up, giving just the slightest nod and grunt to Mina. "'s not a problem." That said, he wasted no time in breezing past her in the direction of the inn, hoping against hope that the Tyranitar wouldn't be following along after him.

As Alex stepped into the Inn, Mina headed for the Pokémon Center, doors closing smoothly behind the both of them and leaving the Tyranitar and Chris alone again.

Mina headed up to the PokéCentre counter and placed her three Pokéballs on it for Nurse Joy to take and heal. Funny, so much had changed, but Nurse Joy was seemingly still a constant. Good thing, too. That loss would probably have been too much to handle.

After getting her Pokémon back, Mina had taken a seat on the bench nearest to the corner, released her Espeon so he could keep an eye out, and promptly fallen asleep. She needed to be refreshed for when the night patrols began.

Meanwhile, Alex was all too happy to throw a paltry amount of money down onto the counter and get his key from the innkeeper, picking up the clothes that he had left here last time to be cleaned and sighing inwardly at the degree of stains that still covered them. Still, they wouldn't smell of sweat or fresh kill, and that was really the end goal here, so it would have to do.

Groaning slightly as he entered his room, Alex gently placed his rifle on the bed, cracking his back with a long stretch immediately afterwards. He was used to it, of course, but carrying the steady weight of the weapon for days on end still took its toll on human muscles. His rifle hit the bed with a thud, his clothes following immediately after as a soiled bundle of near rags left in a neat pile on the corner of the bathroom counter. He'd stitch up all of the new rips later that night, then leave them here to be cleaned during the next time he was out in the wild. It was a fairly nice service, actually, and one of the main reasons why he'd been lingering around Viridian City for as long as he had been.

The shower that followed lasted for as long as the hot water did and left Alex feeling more human than he had for the weeks, sighing as he turned it off and stepped back out into his room, the rough fabric of his towel drying him off within a few moments. He still smelled of earth and dirt, the slight iron of blood, the gentle scent of moss and grass… But it was subtler now, less unwashed and more earthen, the stink of his own exhaustion having been swept away by the water as it flowed over him. A few hours later, he walked out of the inn again a new man, rifle freshly cleaned and oiled, his old clothes left behind to be ready for his next visit. Better still, there didn't seem to be any Pokémon on the street bigger than a trained Ratatta... Shrugging to himself, Alex walked off. Might as well get some proper food while he was in a place where it could be cooked, right?

In the interim, Chris watched Mina and Alex leave with an almost need to get away from him and his Tyranitar quick and easy. Chris figured he should be offended, but decided against it. Instead he took a moment to settle on his next moves.

It was probably a good idea to follow the Charizard's trainer into the Pokémon Center, both to get Romanov cleaned up and to see if he could use some of their water to clean his armor…or what was left of it, anyway. When he was pushed back by that Fearow's Sky Attack it cracked down the arm and he needed to repair it as soon as possible.

With that, he rose up with a grunt. His side hurt, but he ignored the pain and entered the building, Romanov trailing behind him quietly and going with Nurse Joy as Chris left to wash off the blood of his latest foe, and repair his armor with whatever he had left to use. It took him about an hour to take a small shower and complete the cleanup of his armor, but when he returned he was greeted by his dear friend, Tyranitar, waiting for him.

"So, I guess we should go guard the town for a while huh?" he said, an almost happy tone in his voice. The reason he was so quick to go back out there was because he didn't trust people much anymore. Ever since he was little and left for dead at Mt. Silver he had this aura of distrust towards humans, almost a fear. But he learned to care for the citizens of the settlements; most of them were kind people that had protected him many times before.

Chris and Romanov left the tattered building and walked towards the Indigo Plateau, stopping right at the end of the route there. Then he sat down and started to set up camp just as a group of Pokémon started to head towards Viridian. To Chris's relief they scurried off at the sight of Romanov. Chris and the Tyranitar both shared a laugh at that, then continued to set up camp. When they were finished they both decided it was a good time to eat. Chris retrieved from his pack a can of dehydrated fruit, and Romanov grabbed a clump of soil and started to eat it. They both enjoyed their meal, and Chris thought to himself how he was so lucky to have had a Pokémon that eats rocks for nutrition.

About half way through the meal there was movement in the distance, and suddenly a pack of Growlithe, led by an Arcanine, pounced out and attacked. Romanov seemed to expect the attack and threw a rather large share of rocks at the Arcanine with deadly accuracy, striking him in the eye and momentarily blinding him.

Chris was the next to attack. He climbed on top of his comrade and shot the Growlithe one by one using Romanov's rock body as a shield from the beast's fire attacks. This was a normal strategy between the two. Since fire type Pokémon had an exponential growth in the population, Chris and Romanov had to think of ways to protect each other, this being one of the easiest.

But the feral creatures also had a strategy. The Growlithe that managed to avoid the gunshots fired by Chris circled around the duo, and tried to flank Romanov with a group ember attack, successfully hitting Romanov. Rather than weakening him it merely enraged him, and he let loose an Earthquake attack. The ground shook wildly and many of the Growlithe were buried alive; some fled for their lives, leaving the Alpha-male Arcanine left. The air went silent, and all you could hear was the tired panting from Chris and Romanov. Some sounds of confusion were starting to echo from Viridian City, and Chris knew they had to defeat this Pokémon before any brave citizens decided to investigate.

There was a few moments of nothing, then both Pokémon charged at each other, Chris still clinging to Romanov's back. Chris could feel his friend's heartbeat grow faster with adrenaline just as easily as he could feel the heat of the Arcanine's breath. Itching to finish this, Chris jumped off his friend's back and unsheathed his blade, charging towards the feral beast that threatened his partner's safety. Chris's blade crashed into the neck of the distracted creature, and it cut through the animal's spine, leaving the Arcanine to flop against the ground, unable to move. Romanov gave it the mercy of death, crashing into it with a Stone Edge attack.

Once the excitement of battle ceased, the duo looked at each other and simply nodded. Chris rummaged through his pack and retrieved a Full Restore, one of the last of its kind in all of Kanto, and sprayed it on his Rock Pokémon's wounds. Within a few moments Romanov felt much better and nudged Chris in thanks with a gentle growl coming from his friend's throat in reply.

Chris worried about what happened in Viridian when Romanov let loose the Earthquake, because he knew that Tyranitars had the capability to move entire mountains. The attack wasn't nearly that powerful, but it could have damaged some of the buildings there regardless. So despite his prior plans to stay at his simple campsite a little longer, he began to head back towards Viridian City to investigate, and clean up the mess if he had to.

"Hey, kid!"

Haru jumped as Doug's voice finally pulled him out of his trance. He hadn't noticed that they had finally arrived at Viridian City.

"You gonna be alright from here?" Doug asked.

"Uh...yeah. Thanks," Haru said, "I owe you-"

"No, you don't," Doug interrupted, "I told you I'd take you here for free. You just be sure to watch yourself out there," he said, and with a final wave, he turned and walked away.

Haru stared after Doug for awhile. That sort of kindness was not common these days. Most people tended to be more focused on themselves than others.

"Nice guy," Haru said as he turned to his Meganium. His partner, though a Grass Pokémon, was pretty resilient, and could handle long trips through the wastes. However, he was still a Grass type, and still needed frequent rests. Even now, although he tried to look otherwise, Haru could tell that Meganium was tired.

"Here, I'll take you to the Pokémon Center," Haru said, reaching inside his red jacket and pulling out a Pokéball. Meganium frowned at it - he didn't like being inside his Pokéball to begin with, but he was tired, and as such obediently withdrew inside it. A frown mirroring Magnium's crawled across Haru's face as he placed the ball back inside his jacket. As strong as Meganium was, Haru knew the environment was seriously hurting him. Ever since the Change, Haru had been prepared for the day that Meganium would suddenly succumb and die...but these thoughts did little to help Meganium now. Without another thought, Haru proceeded towards the Pokémon Center.

It didn't take him long to reach the Center, and he immediately made his way to the counter. Nurse Joy was nowhere to be found, but that wasn't a problem for Haru - he could wait.

Mina, still napping, was suddenly awakened by Espeon - too soon, in her opinion - but before she could ask why she was jolted fully awake by a tremor. Haru tripped at the unexpected earthquake, causing him to slam his head into the counter and Meganium's Pokéball to drop to the ground.

Mina, on the other hand, had experience with flying and therefore had an excellent sense of balance that kept her from falling. Instead, she jumped up, her hand instinctively going to the pistol at her hip, as the room swayed and objects fell off shelves. Through the chaos, new chaos unfoled, namely a Pokéball bursting open and revealing a Meganium. Amidst the panic, no one noticed a man in a long overcoat exit the Pokémon Center.

The instant he was out, Meganium was by Haru's side, his own weakness forgotten and a concerned expression on his face. The blow had caused Haru to fall unconscious.

With the fuss dying down, Mina took a moment to take in the sight of the room. The tremor had caught everyone off guard - apart from Espeon, apparently – and there were two new additions to the scenery. First, Mina patted Espeon affectionately on the head as a sign of gratitude. Then she paid more attention to the two new guests: a Meganium, standing protectively over a man who was sprawled unceremoniously on the floor.

Mina dashed over, but slowed to a halt once she saw how protective the Meganium was. She took a moment to appreciate the fact that this was an actual Meganium - a legitimate, fully evolved, non-Kanto grass-type, standing right in front of her - before holding up her hands to signify she didn't want to be aggressive, and said "Hold on, relax. I want to help him." The Meganium didn't budge, and barely even looked at her. Its eyes were still fixed on the man who Mina assumed was its trainer. Fair enough - she was willing to bet her Pokémon would act the same way if she was in a similar situation. Nurse Joy was nowhere to be seen, however. Mina jumped over the counter and checked the back room. Stuff had fallen off the shelves, but the Nurse wasn't around. She had probably taken her dinner break or something - shitty timing at its best. Not to mention, who leaves a Pokémon Center unattended? What poor form.

Mina was torn - she really wanted to check and see what had caused the earthquake - it had to be a Pokémon, and if it was a threat and she didn't do something about it she would be failing at her job. Still, she couldn't just leave someone sprawled on the floor in an unattended PokeCentre, which would be just plain unkind. What if he was hurt? She debated this with herself until she arrived at a suitable compromise.

She began to search through the back room, and she quickly found what she was looking for: an ice pack. She also grabbed some herbal medicine for good measure, since the Meganium had looked tired too. Mina exited the back room, and went back over to the unconscious man. Looking straight at the Meganium, she spoke, "Listen. You want to take care of him? That's fine. Here, here's an ice pack. He was hit on the head, right? This will stop the bruising. You can put this on his forehead if you'd rather do it yourself." She put the ice pack on the counter. "I found some heal powder back there as well. You can eat it if you want. I know, it tastes disgusting, but it's here if you want it." She placed the pouch on the counter, next to the ice pack, and undid the knot so the Meganium could get to it easily if it so chose. She began to turn away, before adding, "You might want to elevate his legs, too. It'll make him come-to faster."

Mina then turned to her Espeon. It was times like these she was especially thankful for having a psychic Pokémon. Still, whenever she asked him to do a "reading," the phrasing of the question always mattered more than anything, so she mulled it over before speaking. "Espeon - does the cause of this earthquake warrant a patrol?" His fur bristled, the gem on his forehead glowed, and his tail twitched - No. Alright, that settled that.

She had learned some first-aid, including Pokémon first aid, on her travels, so even though she was anxious to make sure the City was alright, Mina decided that her services would be most useful if she stayed at the Center, at least until Nurse Joy came back. Then, she would leave. Just as she finished that thought, a kid came in through the doors, holding an injured Ratatta. She went back into the back room, and emerged holding more herbal medicine and bandages, and began taking care of the kid's pet.

Route 2

The ground caused the charging Raticate to stumble, a screech of frustration escaping it. It's opponent, an Arcanine, seized this opportunity and, with a single leap, crossed the distance between them and had pinned down its enemy.

The Arcanine's Trainer, a tall blonde man also wearing a long black overcoat stood watching the battle, the shaking ground giving him even less pause than his partner. He silently watched the battle, not even bothering to give orders to Arcanine - he didn't need to.

He sighed as a sudden ringing sound filled the air, barely able to be heard over the two fighting Pokémon. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a PokéGear, opening it without even bothering to check the caller ID.

"What?" he asked, his voice a combination of boredom and irritation.

If the person on the other end noticed, they didn't let it show. "Sir, we've found him."

This grabbed the man's attention. "You're sure?"

"Positive. He matches the description, and he appears to have no other Pokémon other than a Meganium."


"Viridian Pokémon Center, sir."

"Good. I'm currently on Route 2 - I will be there shortly. Do what you can to keep him near there." the man said, and then hung up before he could get a reply.

The man frowned, noticing that his Arcanine still had the Raticate pinned down.

"What are you waiting for, Arcanine? You know better than to play with your food...although you won't be able to eat it now."

The Raticate took no heed to the Trainer's words. It's red eyes were focused only on Arcanine...if only it could move its head ever so slightly-

Arcanine lunged before the Raticate could finish forming its plan.

A strong breeze blew through the area at that time, causing the man's overcoat to blow in the wind, briefly revealing a black uniform with a large red 'R' in the middle.

Viridian City

Occam's Razor, a hunting rifle and a healthy sense of paranoia were a very dangerous combination in the best of people, at the best of times. Alex was not the best of people, and the wake of an earthquake was certainly not the best of times. Even though the level of damage to the people, thankfully, appeared fairly minimal, there were more than a few smaller Pokémon passed out and bleeding by the side of the road, bricks still raining from slowly dying buildings. The Pokémon, it was hard for Alex to really care less about. The buildings were a different story… More than one looked as though it would need to be completely torn down before it would be safe to inhabit again, others looked ready to crumble under their own weight at any moment. In any case, it was obvious that there would be more than a few people sleeping out on the street tonight, at least if they valued their safety. It was a struggle to ignore these sights as he walked, deftly making his way through crashed bikes and bits of debris, a half crushed Pidgey staining one of his shoes red as he passed it…

But, Alex knew that these were all small things. He didn't have enough supplies to be a medic. He didn't have enough skill to work on propping up a new shelter designed for the recently displaced. He wasn't loud enough or persuasive enough to organize the chaos into something productive. All that he knew was that Viridian was not a fault-line. There was no obvious reason for an earthquake to occur, except, perhaps, at the command of a Pokémon. There was just one problem with that assessment, however… None of the wild Pokémon that lurked in the woods that surrounded the city were strong enough to cause something like this. In fact, the only thing that he had seen recently that could have been the cause of this was a certain Tyranitar... What were the odds that one of those shows up in town within the same day that an earthquake occurs?

Well, not really terrible, if Alex was being honest, but nobody had ever accused him of laziness, and he really didn't have any other ideas at the moment. There was the possibility that it had caused this, either at the command of its trainer, or of its own free will. It would hardly be the first time that a powerful monster had snapped, after all. If it had, then it would be a danger to not only him, but the rest of the city as well. A grimace on his face, Alex hefted the rifle on his shoulder, heading over to the PokéCentre that he had seen the pair at earlier. Downside of having such a big Pokémon was that it made you absurdly easy to track; the foot-claws of the beast scoring the concrete paths as it walked were deep enough for the hunter to follow despite the damage from the recent disaster.

There was just one thing that slowed him from moving out, a figure caught in the corner of his eye through the PokéCentre door. The girl from earlier. The one with a Charizard. As much as Alex hated to admit it to himself, a Tyranitar would be difficult to take down with zero prep-time and nothing more than a rifle, especially if it turned out that the incident was intentional and he had to contend with the trainer as well. Swallowing his pride, he made his way into the Centre, approaching the woman warily.

Mina was caught off-guard. Who was this guy? Then, Mina remembered - the pungent man. He wasn't pungent anymore, though.

He spoke without introduction. "We both saw a Tyranitar earlier today. It's the only thing that I can think of that might be able to cause something like this around these parts. Probably nothing, but I want to be sure in case it feels like coming back or doing this again. A Charizard would be helpful in making sure that things worked out well for this town, if you aren't too busy saving the rats."

Mina had taken note of Alex's slightly condescending tone, but let it slide. She listened to what he had to say, before replying, "I hadn't considered the cause of this in detail, but what you're saying makes sense. It most likely was the Tyranitar." Mina studied him - he certainly looked determined. It was unlikely that he would listen if she told him what her Espeon had said, but she did so anyway. "And you're right again, it's probably nothing. This Espeon here is mine, too. Psychic types are good at... Well... Generally knowing what's up." She smiled, trying to be convincing. "He doesn't think this is anything to be worried about, either. Be that as it may, while I am happy to take this Pokémon's word..." A pause, this man was obviously able to hunt down threatening Pokémon, apparently through his own skills and without using any Pokémon himself. Then, Mina remembered how Charizard had acted around him - and glancing down at Espeon; Espeon was staring, too. She continued, "I'm not sure if you would."

Just then, Nurse Joy re-entered the Center with a few people following behind, sporting their own injuries, or holding injured Pokémon. Mina was relieved - she felt a sense of duty in staying and taking care of the wounded, but now that the Nurse was back there was apparently no need to do so. She glanced over at the person who was passed out on the floor - still no sign of them regaining consciousness. Despite the worry tugging at her chest, now that Nurse Joy was back at the Center, Mina wasn't obligated to stay.

"I'm curious to see what happened too, though. And now that she's back," she gestured at Nurse Joy, "it's not necessary for me to stay and... Take care of the rats." Another pause. "Sure, I'll go with you. Although, honestly, I'm not sure a fight will be necessary. Let's get going." She then realized that he had asked her this without introducing himself - then again, she hadn't introduced herself yet, either. "Oh - we should get this out of the way first. My name's Mina. What should I call you?" She extended her right hand out for a handshake. A slightly outdated gesture, perhaps, but it was a habit from her traveling days she kept and was apparently unable to let go.

"Alex." He said simply, shaking her hand once before letting it go and heading out the door, Mina following behind.

Haru awoke to find himself lying on the floor, Meganium resting at his feet - in fact, his legs were resting on Meganium. He slowly reached up and lightly touched his forehead, finding an ice pack. He assumed Meganium had placed it on him, because there was no way Meganium would let anyone near Haru while he was injured.

There was a low, concerned cry, and Meganium finally moved to allow Haru to slowly rise, removing the ice pack as he went.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Haru said to Meganium. That wasn't entirely true - his head was still throbbing, though that wasn't a big deal. "But what about you? You're supposed to be in your Pokéball?" Haru asked reproachfully.

Meganium simply frowned and stared at Haru.

"I guess I should've known better," Haru said with a sigh. If there was any chance of Haru being in danger, there was no way Meganium would stay in his Pokéball. However, Haru was curious as to how Meganium had obtained an ice pack, since Meganium certainly wouldn't leave Haru unattended. Haru also noticed that Meganium didn't look quite so pale, and it was then that he noticed an empty pouch lying nearby. The only possible explanation was that someone had given these to Meganium, but that in itself was odd - Meganium was not a very trusting Pokémon...

Nevertheless, these petty details weren't important right now. What was important was finding out what had caused that quake. Judging by its strength and how suddenly it had hit, it had to have been a Pokémon, which was worth checking out. If it did turn out to be a Pokémon, it had to be stopped.

"You think you're up for another fight?" Haru asked Meganium.

Meganium responded with a confident nod.

With that, the two headed towards the door of the Pokémon Center, only to be blocked by the side of Alex's rifle a moment later. There was a small, wan, smile on the man's face as he looked down towards the pair, Mina standing at his back. "Much better to travel in a group, don't you think? Besides, we've got a pretty good lead on where the Pokémon that might have done this went." Why he decided to stop the younger man, Alex wasn't sure. Perhaps it was that letting him wander on his own without any clues felt needlessly cruel. Perhaps it was just that more firepower was never a bad thing. Perhaps it was that having a group bigger than just two meant that they could technically be a posse, and despite the presence of the Pokémon, a posse going out to track down the wild beast appealed to Alex on a very primitive level. So much so that it was, in fact, hard to not let the flashbacks to the western shows of his childhood take over as he walked out of the Centre, kneeling for just a moment, pointing to the tracks.

From there, the walk out of town was fairly simple, even with the debris that covered the roads. Tyranitar tracks, once you knew what they were and what direction they indicated, were so obvious that it could be done with a minimal amount of effort.

Little did he know Mina was on a similar train of thought: After the conscription of Haru and his Meganium, Mina couldn't help but think they seemed like a proper gang now. She was unaccustomed to traveling with others, and while this had been a comparatively short journey, she concluded that it wasn't really that bad. Neither of her current companions had been particularly talkative, but that was fine by her.

Haru wasn't sure what exactly made him agree to join the other two. In fact, he was sure that he actually hadn't agreed to anything. It was more like they sort of walked out of the Pokémon Center and he started walking in the same direction as them. It also occurred to him that he didn't even know their names yet.

Names or not, Haru couldn't help but think that was odd, traveling with other people - people who were willing to travel with others for reasons other than money were rare these days. But upon further reflection, Haru was glad to have the help. Sure, Meganium had a type advantage, but the truth was that Meganium wasn't as strong as he once was. Tyranitars were a force to be reckoned with, and even if by some miracle Meganium managed to down it, it was likely that Meganium would go down with it without any help…That was, of course, assuming it was a hostile Tyranitar in the first place.

Before long, the trio was standing near the Indigo Plateau, the camp of the person they were looking for being all too obvious against the horizon. "Well… That looks like as good a place to start as any." Alex muttered, stopping them before they walked into what could be dangerous territory without a plan. Un-slinging the rifle from over his shoulder, Alex gestured to a copse of trees off to the side. "As nice as it is to be working with…" He tried to refrain from the term beasts, "Pokémon, I'm not the type to do well in close quarters combat. I'll get myself a perch over there and give you cover." Reaching into his pocket, he pressed a clean handkerchief into Mina's hand. "If you want me to shoot, drop it. If you want me to come down, wave it."

"A handkerchief? How old-fashioned." Mina quietly thought aloud, taking it regardless.

Noting that they all seemed to be in agreement, Alex took a few steps towards his hiding place before turning back around and looking to the pair. "Of course, we could always just kill it now and worry about guilt after the fact, eh?"

Haru gave the man a grave look at his suggestion. Alex's last comment caught Mina off guard as well, but before she could reply Alex had already disappeared among the trees, so she just sighed loudly instead.

"Come on, let's get this over with," Mina said as Alex walked away. Haru nodded, mentally deciding to let her do the talking, and followed her, Meganium tensing in case a fight broke out. After looking the Tyranitar and its Trainer over, Haru noticed that they seemed to be wounded, and didn't appear openly hostile. A quick glance at Meganium told Haru that he thought the same. Meganium was still braced for combat, but his expression was more at ease, almost perplexed; the two of them had learned several times that things were not always as they seemed. That thought made Haru turn his gaze towards Mount Silver, off in the distance. They had indeed learned that the hard way...

Haru shook his head. Now wasn't the time for flashbacks – this wasn't Naruto, after all. He had to focus.

It seemed like the guy with the Tyranitar was actually walking towards them - simply due to its size, the Rock Pokémon was difficult to miss. Mina wanted to avoid conflict, especially considering her Espeon had made it seem like this was nothing to be concerned about, but her paranoia won over, so she withdrew Espeon and released her Charizard. Tyranitars were very strong Pokémon - and part Dark, too. Espeon wouldn't really stand a chance. Charizard stretched out its wings, glanced at the Meganium, and turned to look at the two figures approaching them.

"Come on," Mina said to Haru, "let's just get this done." The team walked over to the pair who was slowly making their way down the path - apparently back to Viridian.

Chris shambled back to Viridian City. His armor was tattered and his skin was burnt, a sense of anger at himself for being unprepared pulsed through his body and he clenched his fist with disgust. Other than his fist opening and closing he looked relatively calm, but deep down he was worried. Worried for all the citizens of the town of Viridian. He knew that the hunters would suspect Romanov went wild, but in reality he was just protecting his trainer.

Chris could see the trainers in the distance, and he could feel his Tyranitar tense up, it too knew that he was in danger, and it was worried that Chris would also be killed for what it has done. Chris sensed his friend's fear and retrieved his Pokéball, something he hasn't used in weeks. He then continued down the route towards Viridian, trying to get there quickly but his legs didn't want to cooperate with him.

Chris inched his way forward, he was cautious of his possible foes ahead of him. Did they think that he was hostile? Chris moved his hand to his hip, right over his katana, he wasn't threatening, but he wanted to be ready for an unexpected attack from fellow mercenaries. He noted several different ways around the curious people, but chose to push through, if there would be confrontation he could handle it, he was known as one of the most impressive of the mercenaries in eastern Kanto for a good reason, and it wasn't just his Tyranitar.

Mina kept her distance, in case the Tyranitar was indeed hostile, but after piecing together how odd it would be that a feral Tyranitar would have a living trainer walking along side it, she doubted the situation was worthy of even that much concern. In truth, it was mostly just caution keeping her distant from the pair. "Hey!" she shouted, to get their attention. "I remember you - from Viridian. Did you, uh," how to phrase this delicately? "You were the ones to cause that right? The earthquake, I mean. Mind explaining yourselves?" As soon as she finished, she noticed that the man actually seemed to be in pretty bad shape. The Tyranitar just looked extremely wary, probably the mirror image of herself. Mina's first instinct was to offer help, but she disregarded that, as it would be best to make sure there was no imminent danger from either of them first.

As Chris approached, he first walked up to Haru and his Meganium, greeting them with a nod, then went into his pack and retrieved a small canteen of water. Chris sipped it to show it wasn't poisoned, then offered it to the grass Pokémon. Meganium seemed tired from the heat, and Chris was almost completely sure it needed a drink. Chris wasn't necessarily suspicious or the like, but he never let his guard down. While one hand was offering the drink, his other was still hovering above the sheath of his blade, a finger twitching every few moments in anticipation.

Haru hesitated when Chris offered Meganium water, but another glance at Meganium convinced Haru to trust the man. Meganium seemed to trust him, and Meganium hadn't really had a chance to recuperate before they set out again; a drink was welcomed.

As they looked him over, Chris looked at the mercenaries, his eyes cold and narrow. "We were ambushed by a pack of Growlithe led by an Arcanine," the mercenary explained as Haru took the canteen and poured water into Meganium's mouth, which Meganium seemed to appreciate.

Mina just listened with a nod, thinking to herself, Attacked by fire types - that would explain the poor state of his clothes.

"If you wish to see the beast I left its corpse just over by the Indigo Plateau's entrance. The earthquake was caused by Romanov, my Tyranitar, as a tactic to eliminate several of the beasts. It worked to say the least, but I apologize for the town."

Mina smiled, glad to hear this. They weren't guilty of anything and it was just one, huge, cautious misunderstanding. Just as Mina had thought, and just as Espeon had predicted. Now she just had to let Alex know. Was it wave or drop for "don't shoot?" Wave, definitely wave. With that mental contemplation, she unclenched her fist and waved the handkerchief Alex had given her, signaling that all was clear.

Chris raised an eyebrow at Mina's strange action, but in today's world strange was becoming the new normal. So rather than question her, Chris merely let her be and continued conversing with Haru. "Were there any seriously injured?"

Haru's head throbbed at the word "injured" but he let it go and thought about what he'd observed on their way to Route 22 for a moment: the town had actually managed well despite the tremor being unexpected. The worst of it were simple wounds to the smaller Pokémon of Viridian that were being fixed by Nurse Joy as they spoke, the buildings had always been pretty worse for wear since The Change, and Haru was back up and running. "Not seriously, no," Haru said, handing the canteen back to the mercenary with a nod of thanks. Mina never corrected him – Haru had summed it up well enough.

Haru started to say something else when a sound caught his ear: a bloodcurdling howl. Then he saw it; a pack of Houndoom, at least nine, was heading straight at the group. Mina's Charizard clearly noticed it as well and let out a loud roar just before Haru managed to see the lone Houndoom as it got behind Chris, preparing to launch itself onto him.

"Meganium!" Haru hollered, his eyes widening. But Haru didn't have to say anything - Meganium was already moving. Meganium launched himself forward, catching the Houndoom mid-leap with a Body Slam. The Houndoom was thrown backwards, yelping as it hit the ground. It attempted to get up, but found that it couldn't - it had been paralyzed. "We've got company, guys!" Haru yelled.

"Alright, let's go!" Mina shouted, already thinking about how they should tackle the situation. Fire attacks wouldn't work with Houndoom, they would sometimes even be completely unaffected, and the flames might even spread to Viridian which would just be horrendous. In other words, Mina's typical strategy of razing everything to the ground with flames was out of the picture. Charizard knew this, and had already lunged at the charging hounds using Iron Tail, and knocked one back and into another, breaking the attacker's formation as the Pokémon dodged out of the dragon's way. Mina released Pupitar without delay, knowing it would at the very least give them a type advantage. Pupitar promptly used Dig, bursting out underneath a Houndoom near the back, knocking it out.

"Charizard! Slash!", Mina cried out, and her Pokémon delivered, knocking another Houndoom back into the bushes with a critical hit. So far, so good. Mina then un-holstered the pistol at her hip, to ensure that if any of the dogs broke through, she would be prepared.

At this point a thought seemed to simultaneously flow through both Haru and Mina's minds – where was Alex?

It always surprised Alex that, despite the shape of the world, people still clung to Pokémon in the way that they did. The hunters, the mercenaries, the fighters, the guards… Nearly all of them still used the animals. In fact, Alex had yet to actually meet another person that fought without any, and he had lost count of exactly how many times people had expressed shock at the fact that he didn't. In truth, it really wasn't that hard. All that you needed was three very simple things, good aim, boundless patience and the willingness to cheat in every single way that the world presented, the moment that the opportunity became available. The first two could be learned. The last? Well, that was something that you needed to be born with. Alex felt that he had it in spades.

The problem with most was that the majority looked at things in far too simple a way, Pokémon trainers especially. Everything was a battle to them. Pokémon and trainer facing off against an opponent. A contest of strength and speed. The very rare ones would use an underhanded tactic, a trap or a feint, a trick or a low blow, but even then, it was still a fight. It was still a contest. They didn't seem to realize that the best place to be in a fight was as far away from your enemy as possible. A bullet in the back of the skull won the fight as decisively as any flashy move. If it didn't, you aimed for the legs, the soft spots, you crippled the beast and took advantage of that fact. You harried it. You blinded it. You made sure that whenever it got to where you were, you were already a hundred yards away with a bead on it and a full magazine. There were no rules, no glory… You took every advantage possible. That was how you survived. That was how you wound up putting down something three times your size with the ability to breathe fire and break mountains.

It was this mentality that would help to explain why Alex did what he did, as the meeting was so abruptly broken up. The fact that the Tyranitar was "innocent" was rather grating. If Alex had destroyed most of a town, even if in self-defense, he would have been strung up.

But that was beside the point, for the moment. In truth, he had barely been watching the exchange… Something else had caught his eye. A man. Not one of the impromptu little groups that they had made up. Not moving to support the flashy idiot with the katana. Just… Watching. Blonde. Dressed dark. There was nothing good about watching like that. Alex's finger tightened on the trigger. Surely a shot to the shin was justified?

Unfortunately, that was when the Houndoom sprinted from their cover and all hell broke loose, the mysterious blond disappearing into the fray. Letting out a particularly colorful epithet under his breath, Alex shifted on the tree-branch that he perched on, bringing his aim back to the fight that now embroiled those that he had brought out here. A pack of any Pokémon was not a good thing, Houndoom being a particularly nasty variety. Normally, this was not the sort of situation that Alex would get involved in. But he had brought two of those people out here. His sense of morals wouldn't let him just abandon them to their fates, not when they were brought about by his hand.

So, what was a sniper to do? The dogs were fast and slim, heads bobbing as they ran and lunged erratically. Taking a shot on one of them would have been a difficult thing, even if he didn't have to worry about friendly fire. Much better to go for the flank, take the easier shot and let the powerhouse Pokémon dispatch the wounded. Shots echoed out, a full clip fired in support as the rounds tore through the soft meat of the dog Pokémons' hindquarters. It was only after he had hastily jammed another clip into the rifle that he saw a godsend. A cheat. Three little Houndour, staying back, away from the fight, well covered from the combat in front of them, but not from the unexpected sniper. They were still; it was an easy shot, and two of the trio fell as the percussive 'crack' of a rifle echoed across the plateau once again. The third, he left alive. If all of them were dead, there would be nothing left to lose. One child left meant that there was something that needed protection. Something to drag their attention away from the fight, to make them want to run, to distract them… Settling his sights back onto the main brawl, Alex could only hope that it worked.

Chris took a step back and drew his katana. The air was hot and he was thankful that the Meganium worked fast and saved him but there was no time for thanking his Poké-knight in shining armor, not now. The entire area was a war zone within seconds. He couldn't count the amount of beasts there were, but there were many. The loud crack of sniper fire was in the distance but even then it hurt his sensitive ears. He chose not to let Romanov enter this fight, he was worried he would do more damage to the area then good.

The best way to fight these beasts was probably hand to hand, the village is already falling apart. Chris thought as he quickly sidestepped a lunging Houndoom, and with one quick elegant slash of his sword the beast was split in two. Following up after his first attack he spun, cutting a nearby Houndoom's snapping jaw clean off. The beast wailed in pain but didn't stop, fire erupted from its permanently gaping mouth in attempt to burn its enemy. Chris saw what was happening and rolled away, but when he did so he was hit by another one of the beasts' will-o-wisp attacks, burning his exposed left arm. Chris cried out in pain, but the burn didn't stop him from retaliating. He sliced the air under the Houndoom which made the fire Pokémon jump to avoid the attack, sadly, that put him in Chris's trap. He then had his blade follow the dog and with deadly precision pushed it through the animal's chest, killing it near instantly. Chris panted with exertion, and then pushed the dog's body off his blade.

That was only one part of the battle, however, and several more things needed to be done before it was over. Shot after shot was fired from Alex's gun, Houndoom after Houndoom leaping into action attempting to kill anyone involved in the battle that wasn't one of their own, and body after body falling limp to the ground in failure to accomplish their goal. This battle to the death may have appeared in the Houndoom's favor at first, but numbers didn't trump power, and the battle seemed almost one sided as the trainers took down the pack slowly but surely over time.

Mina hated it when battles went on for longer than they should have, and this had definitely out-lasted its welcome. There were still about five adult Houndoom left, so Mina took it upon herself to finish them off. "Charizard- use Brick Break! Pupitar- Crunch!" Mina shouted out instructions to her Pokémon. She knew from experience that Houndoom didn't have a strong defense, so a flurry of physical attacks should take them down. Charizard complied, and broke one Pokémon's spine, while Pupitar nearly took another's head off. She heard shots being fired, and assumed it was Alex from his tree, but from where she was standing she couldn't see if anything had fallen. Confused, she looked closer. Some blood splattered from a nearby Houndoom's thigh. Alex was obviously trying to weaken them now. Good enough.

Chris scanned the area. His new allies were doing a lot better than he was at the moment; none of them were injured and for the most part they were doing the greater part of the damage. He considered himself lucky that he wasn't alone when these animals ambushed, because if they did he knew he wouldn't have survived the encounter, not without potentially destroying Viridian even more anyhow.

As he was looking at the battle unfolding he saw in the distance the spark of a rifle firing. Chris noted where the sniper was, and to his shock he also saw another figure. Unable to discern what, or rather who it was, he shrugged it off. Regardless it bothered him that somebody would witness all this yet do nothing to help.

Chris's thoughts were cut off quickly as another Houndoom came from nowhere and tackled him. They rolled across the field, each exchanging hectic attacks, the dog snapping at Chris's throat and Chris trying to push the beast off. His katana was dropped when he was struck and had no way to draw his pistol. Chris fought the beast with all that he had, but to his noted dismay he was losing. If he didn't do something soon he would be beaten down and killed – he had to act fast.

As Chris gazed into the angry dog Pokémon's orbs, strength suddenly flowed into him, and the thoughts of death evaporated into nothing. He did all he could think of in that moment: Chris bit the dog back. Confusion, surprise, and fear appeared in the dog's red eyes, so much so that it was almost comical to Chris, but he had no time to spare. Using the confusion to his advantage, Chris moved his hand to his gun and quickly brought it to the left of the Houndoom. Chris smiled a sadistic smile and pulled the trigger. The gun didn't make much noise, but the anguished yelp of the Houndoom did, which was followed by the soft noise of the dog going limp.

Chris pushed the beast off and sprinted towards the katana, shouting a warning to Haru: "Watch out!" Chris then slid in front of the grass Pokémon and attacked a Houndoom that was about to release a powerful fire attack from a blind spot to the duo's focus. With a "FWIP!" noise the beast was dead, and in response Chris sheathed his blade. He was tired, almost unable to fight anymore... Almost.

From there, Meganium managed to fend off a few of the Houndoom attackers, trying not to fatally wound any of them unless it became absolutely necessary - he and Haru hoped to be able to chase them off. It became increasingly clear, however, that this would not be possible - despite Meganium responding to each attack with an equally brutal counter, the Houndoom continued their relentless assault, showing no signs of letting up, not yet.

Shit, I left my guard down. Mina thought as a Houndoom charged at her, its back legs bleeding as it prepared to use Crunch. Unfortunately for the Houndoom, Mina had her pistol ready before the Houndoom even had the opportunity to use its attack. Before she was hurt or worse, Mina rapidly aimed and shot twice. The first one missed its mark, hitting the dog's front leg instead, but the second flew straight in between the dog's eyes, and it was dead before it hit the ground. Charizard roared, and Mina looked around. There were a few Houndoom still alive, but they had all clustered near where they had charged from, and apparently weren't as keen to attack anymore... And a Houndour? She hadn't even seen that one there before... They definitely didn't pose as big a threat, but there were two dead ones lying by their brother's feet. One Houndoom was sniffing at the bodies of the pups, while another one looked up at them and growled, obviously trying to be protective. Mina couldn't help but think this was somehow sad…or she would have, if they hadn't just been attacked. At least now they all seemed clustered in the same area and weren't running around anymore.

Haru watched as they formed a protective circle around what at first seemed to be a single small Houndour. Upon further examination, however, Haru noticed two other bodies lying next to the standing one...the only living Houndour. This thought sickened Haru - this is what the world had come too: killing children in order to win fights.

Haru was so busy watching the Houndoom that he very nearly lost his life for a second time since the Houndoom attacked. Haru had been standing in front of the paralyzed Houndoom from before. The Pokémon had begun to feel the effects wearing off, and realized it was now able to move its head. Without another thought, it snapped its head up and unleashed a Flamethrower in Haru's direction.

Haru felt the sudden heat of the coming attack and just managed to throw himself to the ground in time to avoid being burnt to a crisp. He didn't see what happened next, but he certainly heard it. Meganium let out a cry - not one that a person would normally hear from a Meganium, but one of an enraged Meganium, one that would make anyone or anything get out of its way. The flames suddenly stopped, and it was immediately followed with a sickening CRUNCH!

Haru didn't dare look - he didn't want to see the Houndoom after Meganium had stomped its head into the ground, crushing its' skull; he could picture it well enough.

"Thanks..." Haru said to Meganium, looking around the battlefield. All of the Houndoom appeared to be dead, aside from the two now protecting the Houndour. He noticed that one was now staring at him, and that pretty much told Haru why they had attacked the group. Houndoom were predators, yes, and they wouldn't hesitate to eat one of their own - unless it was the pack leader, and its mate still lived. That would automatically send the pack off on a hunt for revenge. The Houndoom that he and Meganium had run into earlier had obviously been the pack leader, and its mate had caught their scent on the dead Pokémon's body. The attack seemed to be a bit sudden, though. Haru could only assume it was because one had disobeyed the female and charged ahead anyway, leading to...this.

Haru had a feeling he would have to fight it; it would keep coming after him until it died or it killed him and Meganium. However, that didn't happen… the other Houndoom suddenly barked, its attention now on some nearby trees - exactly where Alex was. There wasn't time for any sort of warning before the two unleashed Flamethrowers at the trees, the remaining Houndour pup darting away in fear.

Alex had just enough time to fire a shot at one of the Houndoom, which by a sheer stroke of luck, hit the Houndoom's head, killing it instantly.

Soon after, he leaped out of the tree, only not as gracefully as he probably could have. He had intended to land on the ground, then take aim and shoot the remaining Houndoom, but instead, he slipped and fell backwards upon landing, hitting his head on a nearby large rock, knocking him unconscious.

Meganium managed to get close enough to the remaining Houndoom that it could unleash a wave of Stun Spore in its direction. The effect was instantaneous. The flames ceased immediately, and the Houndoom was left wide open for an attack, an opportunity Meganium ceased without hesitation.

While this was going on, Haru was making his way towards the direction Alex had fallen. However, he never made it. Meganium had knocked the remaining Houndoom over with a Body Slam and was about to finish it, when the sound of a bullet being fired rang through the air.

The bullet whizzed past Haru, barely missing him. The Houndoom was unable to let out a yelp or any other cry of pain due to its paralysis as the bullet buried itself into its chest, ending its life. An odd sound filled the air then, one not expected after such a fierce fight: applause.

Haru turned to find a blonde man wearing a black overcoat walking towards them, slowly clapping and nodding. Another man wearing a similar outfit wasn't far behind him, bent down to one knee and carried a now smoking rifle.

"Nice, very nice," the blond said, his voice ringing out through the clearing. His voice was very clear, and one of obvious authority of some sort, "You are all very skilled Trainers. Not many could have handled a pack of Houndoom like that." He then stopped walking and sighed.

"Although...I truly wish there were better ways of handling Pokémon these days," he said. The man then turned his gaze towards Magnium's Trainer. "Don't you agree...Haru?"

Haru felt his heart skip a beat. How did this man know his name?

Mina looked to Haru with a blink of confusion. So, Haru was this guy's name? They had never gotten around to introducing themselves to each other. She turned back towards the thugs. Better late than never, I suppose.

The blond continued. "We've been looking for you for a very long time, you know," the man said, walking closer towards Haru, "almost 12 years in fact. You see-"

A loud cry suddenly filled the air, causing Haru to turn around. Meganium was charging in his direction, its gaze focused on the blonde man. Haru didn't even notice the Pokéball being thrown, or the large Arcanine that came bounding from it, until it had collided with Meganium. Both Pokémon stumbled backwards, reeling from the attack. Arcanine then lowered itself onto the ground, in preparation to pounce for another attack.

"I suggest you put your Meganium inside its Pokéball, Haru," the man said, "before my Arcanine is forced to tear it apart - a process I somehow doubt it will enjoy, seeing as its part Poison, but I assure you, he won't hesitate to attack."

Haru stared at the man, then glanced at his Arcanine, who was waiting for any sign that Meganium might attack. He then risked a glance at Mina.

Mina was in a bit of a tizzy now. What was going on anymore? Everything was happening so quickly. They had been fighting for what may well have been their lives, and now this? Alexander was sprawled somewhere, and the Tyranitar man with the sword - and his Tyranitar - had somehow gotten away as well. Good for them, really. She had been scanning the area around her, pistol in hand, but her attention was called back as Charizard roared, and as one of the authoritative blonde man's statements was directed at her.

"Oh, don't even," the man scoffed, "That man over there is one of our best marksmen. If she makes so much as a move to do anything, I'm afraid we'll have to gun her and her Pokémon down." He then turned to face Mina. "I suggest you put your Pokémon away as well," he said with a smile, "My men tend to be a bit...jumpy."

It was then that Haru noticed two large things that appeared to be tanks coming over the horizon. He also noticed that the gunman now had his rifle trained directly on Mina.

"Meganium," Haru called.

Meganium looked up at Haru in shock. Was Haru actually telling him to back off? The answer came quickly, as Haru wasted no time in pulling out a Pokéball and pointing it at Meganium. Meganium glared at the man briefly, which caused Arcanine to growl yet another warning.

"Meganium," Haru said, this time with much more authority in his voice.

Meganium let out a sound similar to a sigh, then lowered its head. A red light shot out from the Pokéball, enveloped Meganium, and then Meganium was gone.

Shit, they really have all their bases covered. Mina thought as she followed suit. She holstered her pistol, which seemed rather pathetic compared to the larger, more expensive guns these men were carrying. Her eyes were locked on the man pointing the gun at her head. Charizard had, thankfully, remained silent - well, as silent as a large, snorting dragon could be - but its pose and glare clearly showed it was ready to dissociate some heads from their respective bodies. She held up her hand to it, a gesture signifying it should stand down, before grudgingly withdrawing her Pokémon. She patted her Pupitar on the head before withdrawing him, too.

"Wonderful!" the blonde man said, "Now then. I hope you don't mind coming with me for awhile. You see, our team requires your assistance, Haru, and from what we've gathered, we may just have a common goal. Miss, I'm afraid you'll have to come with us, too. Who knows? Perhaps you'll want to help as well. I know our team could certainly use more people like you," he said, the last bit directed towards Mina.

It was at this time that the tank-looking things came into view - they were actually very large jeeps. Eventually, they made it into the clearing and came to a stop, two fully-equipped men in black outfits leaping out of them.

Haru glanced around the area in search of the man with the Tyranitar. He didn't see them, so he hoped they had gotten out of the way, perhaps gone to help Alex.

Haru thought for a moment as two of the men scanned the area, another man pointed his gun at Mina, and the other came and whispered things to the blonde man. It was clear these people knew about him. However, had they truly intended to harm him - or anyone else in the group, for that matter - they would have done so already. Despite that, though, Haru somehow had a feeling that neither he nor Mina had a choice in the matter, and it would be prudent for them to play along with these mysterious people...for now.

"Alright," Haru said with a nod, tossing a glance at Mina as he did so. He hoped she was following the same train of thought as he was.

Mina glanced at him, frowning, momentarily taking her eyes off one of the guns which were pointed at her head. Their eyes met for a moment, and she understood. It was either this, or getting gunned down on the spot.

"Excellent!" The blonde man boomed as the other man he was speaking to ran off, "Now then, if you'll both just hop into the jeeps here..."

Mina nodded slightly, before walking steadily towards the cars. As she stood next to Haru, she considered telling him her name, a semi-formal introduction of sorts, but then considered how the armed men would react to them muttering to each other, and decided against it. It didn't really matter at this point, anyway. She hopped in one of the jeeps, keeping her face straight to avoid revealing her feelings - mostly anger, with a hint of frustration, as she hated being rendered helpless - then rapidly slid over to the other seat, just in case Haru would be allowed to sit in the same jeep as her. Even though she didn't really know him, Mina would have preferred sitting next to him than being in a car of heavily armed strangers.

IMPORTANTish STUFF: This is a project that I've taken on that is the result of a long, on-going role-play on RPA. I am NOT the only writer/player in this RP, and I DO NOT take full credit for what isn't my work. Check the Author's Note and Credit sections to see credit where credit is due. My project correlates with the Rules of RPA, and I also have received permission from the GM's Potatrobot and Preach on RPA to do this project. If you are one of the players/writers of this RP and you do not want your work involved in this project, feel free to PM me on RPA [my username is CartelSaide] and we will discuss the solution there. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

CREDITS SECTION: The RPA users credited with writing Part One of Pokemon: The Change are:

RPA Username *other potential info* {character(s) they controlled/Parts they wrote}

Tetsuya *former GM and creator of RP* {Route 22 Prologue; Haru; Magnium; Blonde Team Rocket man and company}

Familiar {Alexander}

Marc Raehh {Chris; Romanav/Tyranitar}

Preach *co-GM of original RP* {Mina; Charizard; Pupitar}

Potatrobot *co-GM of original RP* {Forward}

CartelSaide *me* {revised and edited everything; reformatted everything from RP to story format}

Pokémon is property of Nintendo.